Everyone's Solution? Defining and Redefining Protected Areas at the Convention on Biological Diversity


For decades, conservationists have remained steadfastly committed to protected areas (PAs) as the best means to conserve biodiversity. Using Collaborative Event Ethnography of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD/CoP), we examine how the PA concept remains hegemonic in conservation policy. We argue that, as a broadening base of actors frame their political objectives through PAs in order to further their agendas, they come together in a discourse coalition. In this coalition, actors do not necessarily have common interests or understandings; rather, it is through dynamic struggles over the meaning of the PA concept and the continual process of reshaping it that actors reproduce its hegemony. In this process, the CBD/CoP disciplines and aligns disparate actors who might otherwise associate with distinct discourse coalitions. As the concept accommodates a wider range of values, PAs are increasingly being asked to do more than conserve biodiversity. They must also sequester carbon, protect ecosystem services, and even promote human rights. These transformations reflect not only changes in how PAs are defined and framed, but also in the realignment of relationships of authority and power in conservation governance in ways that may marginalise traditional conservation actors.



CBD, protected areas, rights